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Amsterdam And Other Miracles – Part 3 – Conclusion

☞ Go back and get part 1 first

Or part 2, if you’re into that sort of thing.

In regards to this bin, Geoff, this is a 1999 problem with a 1922 solution.

Perhaps functional when all we disposed of was an occasional apple core, lolly wrapper, or maybe a used dead goat.

But now with a constant supply of commercial waste, starting life as packaging in retail outlets and handily donated by citizens throughout the city’s watercourses, a more elegant solution must arrive sooner, please.

So the question, “Why did they put the bin there?” should be modified to “Why didn’t they change it sooner?”.

And the answer is poor place management.

Most place managers get themselves into a pickle when aligning commonalities of visible and invisible place management.

We know the bin is wrong.

But to provide a supporting argument during an engineers’ budget meeting – a hostile meeting anyway because no department likes being told what to do by an outsider – especially one from within their organisation, from a different department, no less – and add to this the narcotic effect boredom from such meetings inspires, it all means this bin becomes just another headache in a long list of headaches.

Where it’s fated to be ignored.

There is sits for 45 years with multiple other annoyances, incrementally picking at the fabric of the city, bringing the community to their knees.

And preventing any real community competitiveness and development.

*           *           *

I’m not making this up.

In 2012, wanting children to perhaps make it to the bustop without being slaughtered and if so to have a seat, perhaps, nearby, like which wasn’t wet in winter or perhaps afforded them a bit of privacy or a place to put a bag – or, hey, even some dignity, I emailed my good colleagues with a photo to see if we couldn’t place-manage a little.

As an amazing coincidence, they had discussed this very problem the day before – but not left their offices, of course.*

(*I can’t prove that. Maybe they were just mean.)

My email: March 9

“Hi guys, I’m not sure who to email this to but … it’s critical that better and more seating options are placed here. The area has scores of people sitting on the footpath waiting for their bus without any seating options. Who can we talk to about this to try and get an immediate improvement? Please see photo attached.”

Above: Bustop ouside Target, Adelaide Street Fremantle, Australia

(I couldn’t find the original so took a photo of a print-out)

Their reply:

“Hello Nicholas. We discussed this at our divisional meeting yesterday and we all agreed that there is ample seating in this location and that if people choose to sit on paths that is their choice.”

Of course.

It’s their choice. What was I thinking? They should just sit on top of each other, like frogs.

And so it has gone with our Amsterdam bin and that view and that canal and that community.

The government has had 45 years since plastics began making their happy journey from injection molding factories through our shops and all the way to the inside of a tern’s stomach – gloriously fanned out for us here as a rainbow almanac of it’s menu at the Great Pacific Whirlpool.

Cool, hey? (Photos pinched from Mr Chris Parker.)

It was Bill Bryson who said of Amsterdamers in his fairly brilliant book, Neither Here Nor There – in 1991 – that:

“Because they have been congratulating themselves on their intelligent tolerance for all these centuries, it’s now impossible for them not to be nobly accommodating to graffiti and burned-out hippies and dog-shit and litter. Of course, I may be completely misreading the situation. They may like dog shit and litter. I sure hope so, because they’ve certainly got a lot of it.”

Place Managers must:

  • accelerate strategies, care, attention and education to have
  • locally unique solutions to
  • preparing a community of lovers and vigorously productive people by
  • removing the offensive or repugnant to
  • foster development – the best type of development – a sense of place. 

What is known nowhere as the ‘Must-Have-To-By-To’ rule.

But instead of internal change management to affect better rates of personal communication, streetside improvement and local resiliency many place managers just book marketing ads and run a street festival – a domain not occupied by other city departments and hence where they have open paddocks.

Poor place management results in all of us suspending our personal development experiences for another place that returns our investment with like value.

But going somewhere else is not possible for the innocents such as the children or old people married to a place.

And that’s criminal.

As well as a risky strategy, like having untrained soldiers.

The upshot of this story is the Amsterdam bin was removed in 2004.

You can see a sort-of-current Google Earth Street View of it here:

People still argue that rubbish is a symbol of bustling city life, and that a healthful conference of litter in every building recess is necessary bacterium to keep the surfaces of our civilisation healthy – using a handy but disproved cover version of Mr Gouty’s Medical Practises For The Victorian Household as guidance – and that we’re cleaning away the character of the street by being officious about litter or other squiggly legacies autographed upon our streets and walls, because those are the things that are leading our application toward the great ambiguous trophy known as ‘urban grit’.

But they’re just stupid and you should urinate on them.

– END –

☞ Go and start at part 1 again

Or part 2, if you’re into that sort of thing.



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